When Tennessee began football practice last month, defensive coordinator John Chavis couldn't hide his excitement about the Vols' depth and experience in the secondary.
Heading into today's sixth practice, Tennessee's defensive backfield has lived up to the hype.
In Saturday's scrimmage, safety Demetrice Morley intercepted a pass, sure. More impressive, says fellow safety Eric Berry, is the way Tennessee's secondary communicated.
"It felt wonderful," Berry said. "Everyone knew what they were doing. We didn't keep any secrets. Everyone was letting each other know what was going on. We were making all the right checks, all the right calls. Experience just started kicking in."
Chavis agreed with that assessment.
"They know what they're doing," he said. "Coach (Larry) Slade's done a terrific job, and obviously there's some skill back there, some really good skill.
"I don't want to say it quite yet, but it could be some of the best skill we've had back there. And that makes it exciting. We'll see. We'll see how they keep progressing."
Tennessee could use some of the same up front.
Defensive tackle Dan Williams batted down a pair of passes, but as a whole UT's defensive line didn't generate the kind of quarterback pressure that Chavis would like.
Last year, UT recorded 24 sacks, its second-lowest total since 1989.
"We need to continue to get better with our pressure. We need to get our sacks back up to where they need to be," Chavis said. "Even though we came on toward the end of last year, last couple years we're not anywhere near where we need to be. You've got to realize, when you start getting sacks, usually sacks are drive stoppers. We've missed that the last couple years."
Tailback Tales: Despite the fact Tennessee's backfield wasn't incredibly productive in Saturday's scrimmage, first-year running backs coach Stan Drayton liked his group's effort.
"There was some great effort out there, some great second effort out there," Drayton said, "and I got some guys that love to play the game."
Senior Arian Foster figures to be the starter, however Drayton wants to reserve judgment on his tailbacks until after spring practice.
"It's kind of unfair to put a stamp on anything right now because you still got guys learning," Drayton said. "You still got plays going in, we're still installing. With all that going on, you've got players out there still playing the game pretty slow because they're out there thinking a whole lot, not trying to make mistakes.
"I haven't seen the full potential of any of these athletes I'm coaching yet. So, when that opportunity comes at the end of spring, I should have a better idea of that."
More Secondary Praise: Chavis wasn't the only one who thought Tennessee's secondary performed well Saturday.
"There's a lot of guys that can really fly around and make plays," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. "You can just see the difference is night and day. No big balls given up, they're breaking on the football and really playing good right now."
More Shuffling?: Saturday's injury to fullback David Holbert could result in more personnel changes.
UT already moved offensive lineman Cody Pope to tight end after Jeff Cottam suffered a broken leg last week.
"We've got a couple guys coming in, if you want to count on a freshman - and we will - but we'll have to really sit down and evaluate that," Fulmer said. "That leaves you a little short-handed at two spots, fullback and tight end, which is important for what (offensive coordinator Dave) Clawson likes to do."